Bernard Means with a 3D-printed ground sloth skull inside of a laboratory.
Bernard Means with a 3D-printed ground sloth skull at the Virtual Curation Laboratory. Means is one of several TEDxVCU presenters this year. (Thomas Kojcsich, University Marketing)

Ice age mammals, beating cancer, and other topics to check out at TEDxVCU this year

The annual event will feature presentations that will inspire you — and one that might send you on a mission to find a mastodon fossil.

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Attendees at this year’s TEDxVCU event will be treated to presentations by speakers who have inspirational life stories and are pursuing answers to some of the world’s toughest questions regarding equity and inclusion.

Oh, and there will be ice age animals, too.

The annual event, sponsored by University Student Commons & Activities, will be delivered as a one-time online broadcast via Zoom this year and will take place Saturday, April 10, from 3-5 p.m. It is free and open to the Virginia Commonwealth University community, though capacity is limited. Registration is required to attend.

Among the speakers at this year’s event are Rachel Elliott, a leukemia survivor, former Massey Cancer Center patient and VCU School of Business graduate; Bianca Owens, a psychology doctoral student in the College of Humanities and Sciences whose work centers on sexual and reproductive health outcomes of women of African descent; and Anna Marie “Amie” Rodriguez, a biology student who aspires to increase access to justice, education and health care in underserved communities.

Also among the presenters is Bernard K. Means, Ph.D., an associate professor in the School of World Studies in the College of Humanities and Sciences, who will speak about the giant mammals that roamed America during the ice age, and why the founding fathers were obsessed with them

The poster for the "Below The Surface" TedX VCU event. Seven photos of presenters are included. Text on image states "Tedx VCU. x=independly organized TED event. Presented by The Commons."
TEDxVCU will be delivered as a one-time online broadcast via Zoom this year and will take place Saturday, April 10, from 3-5 p.m. It is free and open to the VCU community, though capacity is limited. (University Student Commons & Activities)

Jessica Norman, co-chair of the TEDxVCU planning committee and assistant director for fitness and wellness at VCU Rec Sports, is excited about the speakers and the variety of topics they will bring to the event.

“But more than that I’m thrilled about the commitment, energy, and heart our speakers display in delivering their talks,” Norman said. “They bring their topics to life.”

Justin Raibolt, Norman’s co-chair and coordinator for leadership and student organizations at The Commons, said the event is an opportunity to demonstrate the power of storytelling.

“I’ve always been intrigued by the power of storytelling,” Raibolt said. “TEDxVCU is such a great opportunity to showcase that power through student, faculty and alumni speakers and their talks.”

A glance at the speakers and their topics:

- Rachel Elliott, School of Business graduate; “Resilient by Design”

- Bianca Owens, doctoral student, Department of Psychology, College of Humanities and Sciences; “The Missing Link in Black Women's Reproductive Health"

- Anna Marie “Amie” Rodriguez, undergraduate student, Department of Biology, College of Humanities and Sciences; “Hate is a Virus”

- Bernard K. Means, associate professor, School of World Studies, College of Humanities and Sciences; “America's Founding Monsters: Ice Age Animals and the Birth of America”

- Puru Jenna, Ph.D., distinguished professor, Department of Physics, College of Humanities and Sciences; “Many Faces of Carbon”

- Hadiya Gayle, College of Humanities and Sciences and School of Business graduate; “The Netwerk”

- Cara Wolder, graduate student, VCU Brandcenter; “Remain Undefined”

TEDxVCU is a one-day event featuring VCU students, faculty and alumni speaking about ideas that push boundaries, seek solutions to problems and strive to better understand the human condition. The event was first held at VCU in 2014.

In addition to Norman and Raibolt, organizers include Jen Allen, program coordinator for the Commonwealth Cyber Initiative in the College of Engineering; Ellen Carpenter, Ph.D., a teaching assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the College of Humanities and Sciences; and students Sanija Dowden, Nira Harikrishnan, Dulanda Saintcyr, Chloe Simons and Stella Tessarollo.

For full details of this year’s broadcast, including more information on the speakers and registration instructions, visit the TEDxVCU website.